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Will Ketones Conquer Carbs When it Comes to Commercial Energy Drinks?

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Several studies over the last year have indicated that the performance benefits of ketone supplemented energy drinks far exceed those of carbohydrate based ones.

The most recent study suggests, that cyclists who were given ketones during a half-hour ride, both performed better and reduced the body’s need to break down stored fat in order to produce energy. 

Lead researcher, Dr. Pete J. Cox of the University of Oxford, said the results were “a natural response to energy crisis and is of vital importance to us as it allows us to survive ‘insults’ such as starvation and even the first few hours after birth when fuel levels are low.”

According to the study, cyclists who were given a ketone-based drink were able to use the energy as muscle fuel, which not only resulted in better performance, but also reduced muscle soreness cause by lactic acid build-up.

Additionally, the study also revealed, that after consuming the ketone drink, the cyclists traveled an average of 411 meters further in the half-hour time trial as compared to consuming a carbohydrate-based drink. 

It’s really interesting: with a single drink of nutritional ketone you can do the same exercise with completely different metabolism,” said Cox.

“Given the findings of this study, that challenge our fundamental understanding of human physiology, it will be tempting for many to focus on pursuing the endurance and sport-related avenues, but it would be a great shame if the metabolic basis of this work was not further explored.”

The idea to develop a ketone-based food group came from the US Army’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who put out the call in an effort to create more energy efficient food for soldiers in the field. 

Another person who responded to the call, was biochemist Kieran Clarke of University of Oxford biochemist, who along with Dr Richard Veech at the National Institutes of Health, assembled a team who invented the first ketone ester drink.

The study not only found that athletes who consumed ketones during a workout saw an improvement in performance, but did so with no adverse effects.

“Hopefully this finding will help many athletes realize that optimum fueling for sport is not simply to ingest as much carbohydrate as possible – before, during and after exercise,” said Timothy Noakes of the University of Cape Town in South Africa, who was not part of the new study, but advocates a low carbohydrate diet for health and weight loss.

“Currently the drink is not commercially available, and is difficult to make even in a laboratory (patent protected), meaning it may be some time before this drink, or ones like it can be made readily available to the public,” he added. 

However, a subsidiary of the University of Oxford, T∆S Ltd, is in the process of developing a ketone drink for commercial use.   

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